Repost – Behind the Comic: In Our Dreams Awake

 

I don’t have the email anymore where I first pitched Egg the basic idea behind In Our Dreams Awake. I basically remember that I had hit upon this idea of someone having to live two different lives, one when they slept and one when they were awake. I know that it happened around the Winter of 2004-2005 in one of many of our daily emails back and forth to each other. Those emails served as both catch-up on the day/week and also a dumping ground for us to share potential writing ideas.

You see, the goal with Egg and I always was to find a way to write comic books. During college, there were many, many, many weekends the two of us would journey from one comic shop to another looking for back issues. And during those trips, we’d talk story ideas. They ranged from some take on whatever Marvel or DC or Image might be doing at the time all the way to our own comic ideas featuring our own characters. But this was in the days before something like Kickstarter existed, back in the days when we were going to have to find a way to do things on the “cheap”.

Egg’s always been good about looking at potential story ideas and breaking them down into a format that might be a little different. And In Our Dreams Awake sent his mind going.

I know/remember a few things about this time:

Egg found the title from a quote by Thoreau.

Egg pitched the idea of the two of us writing portions of the story. One of us would take one dream and the other would write the other.

Egg found both the artists to do what would become a 4 issue mini-series: Edgar Salazar (pencils) and Genaro Olavarrieta (inks) for my “fantasy world” dream and an artist for “futuristic world”.

So we started on the scripts for issue 1. And then the pages started rolling in… this was working… we were going to have a comic book!

We quickly got scripts going for all 4 of the issues, as Edgar and Genaro were rocketing through their work. I learned how to color on the computer (which is a story for another time). Egg’s artist was turning in good stuff. The tone felt great… all we needed to do was find a home for the comic.

We approached Image, I think we sent it off to a couple of other places, but nothing ever came of it. I was working with the Terminus Media guys at the time and had learned enough to know how to get the book printed, but we realized we probably needed to have a complete book before going down that path.

And then Egg’s artist fell off the face of the Earth.

He’d done around 20ish pages out of the 48 or so we’d need to finish things up. But we couldn’t find him. He didn’t return email. I think Myspace was a bust (remember Myspace?). Months went by, which became a year, which became two years. Edgar and Genaro finished their pages and moved on, but we felt hamstrung by this artist. It was weird that one of the original reasons for doing the comic with two artists was so that it would half the load. We thought there was a chance that if an artist disappeared (or ghosted us) that it would be relatively early in the process. Maybe they’ve done 1-5 pages and then make like a wizard, but he’d done enough for 2 issues.

We scrambled. Egg came up with an idea to split his dream in two with the already finished pages and then get a new artist (potentially himself) to do the last 24 pages. We toyed with some other thoughts, but time went on, and like so many things…

In Our Dreams Awake passed into legend…

It nagged at me. Tugged at the back of my mind. Every year I’d look through my files and see the pages and think about what could have been. I wrote the Gilded Age and The Dark That Follows and still, it was there. Egg moved on to RPGs and writing for so many websites that I can’t even keep up with his output these days.

When we were first working on the comic, Egg found the Thoreau quote and it fit perfectly. But randomly during that same Christmas, my mom got me post-its with quotes on them. And while they didn’t have the In Our Dreams Awake quote, they did feature one from Poe that seemed made for our comic:

Things had lined up perfectly until they didn’t.

Then March 2020 happened and the world changed. We had time on our hands. And In Our Dreams popped up in my dreams again. So I reached out to Egg. Told him I wanted to make a go of it. That we knew so much more than we had nearly 2 decades earlier. The biggest obstacle was always having product, but in this case, we had 1/2 the story already done. There was only one hurdle to go: we needed to reach out to Egg’s artist and see if we could use those pages or if we were going to start over.

And after many weeks, we decided to go with someone new.

The thing was, I’m a part of a couple of Facebook Groups where artists post their work looking for their next gigs, so I’d been saving posts of anyone who caught my eye. So when we decided to move on, I shared all the potentials with Egg, and very quickly we identified Rolands Kalniņš as the person who could bring the sci-fi/cyberpunk dream to life. And Rolands has done that and more. And all of a sudden we had issue 1 ready to go.

All of sudden… after 17 years… we had the first issue.

***

We’re in the process of putting the 2nd issue on Kickstarter very soon, and I’m hopeful that we won’t have quite as long of a break between issues from now on. Be on the lookout for the prelaunch page coming to your screens very shortly.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Gilded Age Posts

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

 

Doing my 4 Years Later look back last week, I realized that I’ve written a few posts on The Gilded Age, but never really compiled them into any kind of comprehensive Index. Instead, you would have had to search and claw and dig through the Tessera archives to potentially find any of this.

What follows is a collection of stories about selling the comics, coming up with the comics, and sometimes just finding a way to make the comics. I hope you check them out.

 

New York Comic Con Recap – Stories from the Con

While the overall post is about various things that happened, but the Steampunk Guy tale is directly related to my experience trying to sell a copy of The Gilded Age.

And something about Divergent Points.

The Gilded Age

Behind the Comic – The Gilded Age

Every Hero has their own Secret Origin, and this happens to be The Gilded Age’s Secret Origin!

Behind the Comic – The Gilded Age 2

A blog about the second issue of the comic, but also about the ups and downs of bringing a comic book to life in the first place. There are delays, expected and unexpected. Starts and stops. But don’t lose faith, it can and will eventually happen.

You Got Time Travel Mixed With My Steampunk!

This was a post announcing the digital release of Terminus Team-up #2, which also happens to take place in The Gilded Age.

I need to remember to do a full-on post for this one at some point, as I love the way it turned out.

Behind the Comic – Terminus Team Up #2

Oh, look at that. I did write a post about it. A story about how Amber Fox (Terminus Media’s resident Laura Croft meets Dr. Who) and how I managed to figure out a way to get another Gilded Age story out there mixed with my favorite subject: Time Travel!

Behind the Comic – Anatomy of a Panel

I wanted to take a look at one panel from The Gilded Age and really break it down. Look at the script, look at the pencils, look at the inks and colors and then the lettering. How does it all come together?

Steampunk Fridays – The Gilded Age Interviews

This is the post from a couple of weeks ago which pretty much serves as my Index of Interviews for the various people who worked on the books. I don’t know if I say it enough that I am very fortunate to have worked with all of them. They’ve made me a better creator.

Kickstart the Comic – Gilded Age: Vol 1 – A Steampunk Graphic Novel

Hey, have I mentioned that there is a Gilded Age Kickstarter still running? And we have just passed the funding mark and are now setting our sights on a couple of Stretch Goals? Still not convinced? Maybe you should check out this post where I break it all down.

Behind the Comic – Why Kickstarter?

Where I bear my soul a little bit and talk about what I’m hoping to accomplish with this Kickstarter Campaign. About how I’m nervous that all these years worth of work might be for nothing if this thing doesn’t fund. This was written in the days just before the campaign went live and my stress level might have been a bit high.

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John McGuire

The Gilded Age Kickstarter is still going on. Check it out on Kickstarter here.

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Behind the Comic – Terminus Team Up #2

 

Terminus Team-up #2

Writer – John McGuire

Pencils – Shamus Beyale

Inks – Rich Perrotta

Colors – Ann Siri

Letters – Khari J. Sampson

Editors – Tony Cade & Robert Jeffrey II

***

And as I wrote in the intro, I cheated a little with this comic. You see, the point of the Team Up books are to present the character Amber Fox interacting with various other Terminus Media comic books. Issue #1, written by our own Robert Jeffrey II, had her interact with Terra Force.

(And by interact I mean try to steal something from them and pretty much have the whole team hunting her down.)

Issue 2 it was suggested that Amber Fox come to the Gilded Age.

Pencils – Shamus Beyale, Inks – Rich Perrotta, Colors – Ann Siri

I wasn’t exactly behind that idea. Not that I’m against the idea of having other characters pop up in my comics, but more that I wasn’t even sure where to begin with such an idea. At its core, The Gilded Age is a steampunk comic book where the technology level is late 19th Century for the most part. Amber Fox is from a future where she can effectively teleport, she has laser knives as her primary weapon, nanites travelling through her body… how in the world can I possibly make something like that work and not just feel…

Out of place.

This was an opportunity. Not only to tell another story, get another Gilded Age “thing” out there, but to find a way to do it that I was happy with. And like so many times when I’m not sure what to do about a writing related problem – I focus on something else. Allow my mind to work on the problem “behind the scenes” for a bit.

I don’t know where the solution came from, but I hit upon the solution for my problem. It would focus on the Time Traveling aspect of Amber Fox, but from more of a HG Wells inspired way. Looking at the cover above, you can get a good idea of what I might be talking about.

More than that, this needed to have something else. A reason for the story to exist beyond “hey wouldn’t it be cool if”.

From Amazon:

Terminus Team Up shows us the continuing adventures of Amber Fox, a woman who is tasked with recovering all manner of strange and powerful objects across space and time. And while she appears in this issue…

This story is not necessarily about her.

Nor is it about Lucas Knight, the inventor/scientist from The Gilded Age.

This comic is about beginnings and endings…

Think about Time Travel for a moment. What would you want to see?  A question pondered by fiction writers and scientists. And if you were a scientist looking at the end of the century? Could be that endings might be on your mind. And here is this woman with the ability to show you things you didn’t even know you wanted to see.

Things started falling into place. There was just one last piece: Shamus Beyale, the artist for the book. Since he came on the book as I was still working on the rough draft I thought it might be a good idea to see what things he might like to draw. I gotta think the worst thing for an artist is to hate drawing something like horses, and then reading the script where every panel apparently has a horse in it.

And bless Shamus, he came up with the last piece of the story. He mentioned how there was a “sense of death in the story” and he’d “like to see right before the end of things/eras”. End of the dinosaurs, Pompeii, the end of the neanderthals… all of this was just golden stuff and was tying the book together in a way hadn’t expected.

But he had one more… something that had a personal connection to him. From one of our emails about the project:

“The next thing would be something related to my culture. I’m Navajo and our people went through a genocide of sorts called the Long Walk. Although our culture didn’t end with it, we barely survived.”

Page 19 – One of the Long Walk Pages

It’s something I wasn’t even aware of, but once I read a little about it, I knew we needed it in the comic.

***

More than anything, Team-up 2 served to remind me of the truth about comic books: That nothing is done in a bubble. You have collaborators, reach out to them and see what can get them jazzed about doing a story your constructing. Hopefully, it makes them feel as much ownership of the project as the original creator has. In the end, you will have a stronger final product.

And something you can all feel proud of being a part of.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Behind the Comic- The Gilded Age 2

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Two years is a long time to wait between these posts. The last one was back in March, 2014 where I talked about the origin story of the Gilded Age comic book. So I had hoped to tell this story before now.

Sometimes these things take more time than you realize.

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Here it is, with the character who inspired the setting. Strange to think that without Silas Gideon, the Gilded Age wouldn’t exist, but moreso that this concept has become something bigger (in my mind at least) than that one character. In fact, the main character for the Gilded Age right now is really Hannah (from the 1st issue).

This story is really the tale of 3 characters – Silas Gideon, the war veteran who has seen better days, but still has a need to put food on the table, Keturah, the gypsy who has fallen for her costar, but only manages to learn bits and pieces about him, and Oscar Grant, a man who wants to be KNOWN.

We all suffer in obscurity at times. We wake up, do our jobs, go home, and then do it all over again. If we were to die, our friends and family would certainly suffer, but the world at large would continue spinning the same as it always had. However, when a celebrity dies, we all take some measure of notice. We stop and it is a shared grief stretching far from our circle. Strangers who have never met share the same emotions.

That’s what being KNOWN means. If you pass from this world you leave behind something to note you were there in the first place. Immortality.

And yet, most of us push ourselves to be better than we are. Sometimes that comes in the form of losing weight, or playing cards, or shooting baskets, but we practice these things because we need to have successes.

Now take that to the far edge of things. What if you were the absolute BEST at something? What if everyone who heard your name knew that one undeniable fact?

And what if you wanted the title?

***

The thing about this comic, though, is that I wasn’t sure if it would see the light of day. The thing they don’t always tell you about Indy Comics is that the money is not a river forever flowing thick and strong… no, it is more like a trickle here or there. Other expenses take precedence while paying projects you thought were going to sustain the growth suddenly dry up to near nothingness.

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Much like when in your own household, and you get laid off… the belt has to tighten. Projects that were green-lit suddenly must be put in a holding pattern in hopes that things will be a little better in the new year.

So it was with Gilded Age 2.

The sad thing was pencils had been completed, as had 18 of the 22 pages of inks. Which meant that we were down to the colors and letters, typically not the place you want to come to a complete stop.

But that’s what we had to do.

***

The other thing they don’t tell you about… well, about most things honestly… is that when you come to a complete stop and then the stream begins flowing again, you can’t jump back into action at full speed. There is a slow build up.

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In GA #2’s case it had been over a year of it sitting on a hard drive. Terminus wasn’t even sure what pages they had, what pages they still needed, etc. Add to that the idea of getting the same colorist and hoping he’d have a break in his schedule in order to keep some level of continuity between issue 1 and issue 2.

It meant multiple communications from all parties. Tracking down the right files, and when a couple of those went missing, getting updated versions from the artist. Anything to get the damn thing back up and running.

***

A comic doesn’t exist until it does exist.

What I mean by that is before you see a printed (or complete digital version) of a comic book it just isn’t anything more than an idea. And idea that a writer wrote down, an artist adapted into pictures, an inker refined, a colorist painted the world, and the letterer fit the words onto the page such that everything flows.

But until it is done, every piece is just a piece of something which might be great, might be awesome. The creators don’t really know.

And that’s the lesson of this comic… it’s not a done deal until it fully exists. Don’t assume anything, and don’t take that fact for granted. I know I still struggle with that at times. Just accept those pages the artist sends as really f-ing cool trailers for a movie you HOPE comes to town.

***

But also, when it does sit in your hands… celebrate!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Behind the Comic – The God That Failed

Of the four of us who write on the Tessera Blog, I’m the comics guy. Though that is a bit of a misnomer as I know both Chad and Amanda read comics as well. However, on the writing side of things, until my novel comes out next month, the only thing I’ve ever gotten published is in the comics field, so…

The first comic book story I ever wrote was composed while I was at my day job in about 10 minutes time. I’m not talking about the basic beats of this 8-page story, but the full script was furiously jotted down on scrap paper to the point that the rest of the world no longer existed (probably a good thing my boss didn’t walk by me at that point, I wouldn’t have noticed him). This idea of a superhero story that wasn’t just the typical story that you’d normally get. That’s what I was shooting for. That and something that could be told in a short form (8 pages).

Now forget that I had no idea what a comic book script was supposed to look like format wise… at least not really. I had this vague idea that I’d need to break this plot down into pages and that those pages would need to be broken down into panels, but for some reason I either couldn’t or just wouldn’t do that. Instead the script that I delivered to the artist was mostly composed of narration and some vague attempts at “Hey this would be an interesting image to appear somewhere on this page”.

But of all of the things I’ve written, The God That Failed holds a special place in my heart. Most likely because it was the first thing I got published in a comic (it appeared in Terminus Media Presents: Evolution Book 1), but I think it also was that first spark which showed that maybe, perhaps, this dream I had since I was all of 10 years old scribbling ideas in a blue spiral notebook might be attainable.

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Since the internet loves a list, here are 10 things (Why 10? Because that’s how many I came up with!) about my first comic that might strike your fancy, a behind the scenes, if you will:

1- The story is online, for free at Terminus Media’s webpage. Click here to give it a read and tell me what you think in the comments section below (on Terminus’s site or on this very blog).

2- John Etienne was the artist on the story. The only reason that Etienne was my artist is because I had approached him a couple of months earlier, before the idea of doing an anthology was even a real thought in anyone’s head. However, it wasn’t because I had this story lined up. No, instead I had wanted him to draw an 8 page Moon Knight story for me (not sure what my goal there would have been). Lucky for me he didn’t have time right then to work on anything, and when the anthology project was finally launched I had a story of my own.

3- John Etienne happens to know my Mother-in-Law. She played a trick on him once the comic was out by telling him that not only had she gone to Dragon Con, but she had bought this comic book and wondered if he was the artist on it. “I always go to Dragon Con, and I love comic books”. After a few dumb-founded seconds she fessed up, but both of them later relayed the story to me (and the look on his face as he wasn’t sure if he’d stepped into Bizzaro world or not). I believe Etienne’s words were to me that he just couldn’t see her at Dragon Con. Though, I would pay good money to see her downtown on Labor Day weekend.

4- There was some debate about the order of the stories within the book. I generally like to be the nice guy about most things, but by my thinking I believed you either wanted to be the first story or the last story in the book (actually we all may have thought those spots were the best). I ended up with the last story position, but when the first story ended up delayed (or abandoned, I can’t remember) everyone agreed to put The God That Failed into the first position. Again, I have to thank Etienne for actually being the first one finished with his pages which made the choice fairly easy plus they looked pretty damn good as well, which did not hurt our cause).

5- I mentioned in the last blog that my favorite superheroes are Spider-Man and The Flash. The God That Failed was my idea of what would happen to a guy who received the abilities of The Flash, but that power was burning him up inside.

TheFlash

6- In my original script, page 7 was actually page 6, and page 6 was page 7. Given the way the narration was done the story wasn’t as much linear as it was a guy talking about his friend who was disappearing from the world. When I actually saw the finished pages I had those two flipped given the way the story played out. That being said, page 7 is a “what if” moment, not something that the character actually did (he didn’t need to get more power, he already had way too much).

7- Though I love the serialized format of comic books, this was always a stand-alone story… a cautionary tale, a new myth or something. Thus began my apparent need to tell complete stories (done in one) in comics. That continues today with The Gilded Age. But the real reason that I didn’t want to have him as a new hero for future stories was that I had no idea if or when I’d ever get a chance to do more comics. And as a reader there is nothing more frustrating than buying a comic that says “To Be Continued” and then not ever finding the rest of the story.

8- The main character’s name was John Smith; however, it wasn’t because two Johns worked on the story. I wanted a generic name, someone who might be easily forgotten regardless of all the good deeds he might have done. That fear is something that I know I have and I was channeling that fear into John Smith. This is really summed up to me on pages 5 & 6 but mostly in panel 4 on page 5. John carving into the Easter Island statues is not him destroying something precious; it is his attempt to prove that he existed at all. I sometimes wonder if he did that all over the world.

9- The title is taken from the title of a song on Metallica’s Black Album. I just liked the way it sounded, and since superheroes many times are considered gods, it fit exceptionally well in my mind.

Now I probably owe them money or something.

10- My favorite page of the story is the last one. I think (I hope) that I dodged becoming too preachy by having that last panel thrown in there. I love the idea of another what if… this one being, of course, what if John Smith had lived. The shot of The Fruit Fly conjures up memories of a 10-year old me. I think he would have gotten a kick out of that.

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So there you go, a few bits and pieces about the story… my own commentary track. Sadly it is not like the old VH1’s Behind the Music because at no point could I really say “And then tragedy struck”.

Or maybe not so sadly…